Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson (R) resigned Tuesday, following the leak of more than 500 texts he sent to a junior state employee’s personal cellphone in one month, frequently remarking on her beauty and sharing the kissing-face emoji.
“I regret that my actions and errors in judgment in interacting with a state employee have become a distraction to the good work and good people working in the state’s and your service,” Clarkson said in his resignation letter to the Alaska governor.
The texts were published Tuesday by the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica. Clarkson was not the direct supervisor of the woman, who wasn’t identified by the Daily News and didn’t comment for their report. But Clarkson, who is married, held a much higher position in the state government and earned more than twice as much as the junior employee, the paper reported.
Shortly after stories published, Clarkson resigned, although he denied sending any intentionally inappropriate messages and characterized the texts as “innocent mutual endearments.” He said the conversations involved food, movies, books, and their families. He invited the younger woman to come to his home to share dinner multiple times, and each time she politely declined.
“All of these texts were ‘G’ rated,” Clarkson said in his resignation letter. “There is nothing remotely salacious about the texts.”
Still, Clarkson acknowledged he should have recognized the power disparity between himself and the junior state employee could have made her uncomfortable. He also acknowledged physical interactions with the woman, including hugs and a kiss. He apologized for making the woman feel uneasy through the texts and physical embraces.
“On several occasions, this person initiated a friendly hug when I came to her workplace,” Clarkson wrote, “and I reflexively gave her a tiny peck of a kiss on top of her head.”
Before he resigned on Tuesday, Clarkson had been placed on unpaid administrative leave following a human resources investigation of his interactions with the much-younger employee. He had reportedly been unreachable for a month, leaving the decision-making in the Department of Law to other government employees.
The governor accepted the attorney general’s resignation Tuesday afternoon.
“Kevin Clarkson has admitted to conduct in the workplace that did not live up to our high expectations, and this is deeply disappointing,” Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) said in a statement. “This morning he took responsibility for the unintentional consequences of his actions and tendered his resignation to me. I have accepted it.”
The former attorney general was appointed by Dunleavy in December 2018. Clarkson had earned a reputation as a defender of conservative Christian values. He represented conservative activists pushing a ballot initiative that would require parents to be notified if their minor child sought an abortion. He also represented religious organizations in court battles over tax exemptions and public prayer, the Daily News reported. Last December, Dunleavy appealed to President Trump to help Clarkson’s stepson and wife secure visas to come to the United States from Colombia, describing the former attorney general as “a wise and trusted legal advisor, a man of exceptional character, and a devoted husband and father.”
The text messages began in March and continued for 27 days, the Daily News reported. In the texts, Clarkson invited the woman to his home 18 times. He sent her 56 kissing face emoji. He invited her to drink wine with him. He called her “beautiful” and “sweet lady.” And after they had not seen each other for a while told her, “you owe me a number of hugs.”
After the woman asked Clarkson to respect professional boundaries, he replied “OK I won’t bother you more,” the Daily News reported. He told her he had enjoyed talking to her and called the hugs that they had shared “pretty darn special.”
Then he sent her 200 more text messages, the newspaper reported.
In early April, the woman told Clarkson he should stop inviting her to his home. “Please remember this is my personal phone,” she texted him. In all, Clarkson had sent her 558 texts.
The Daily News reported that the state denied multiple records requests for the texts while Clarkson was on leave; the paper eventually got the texts from another, unnamed, source.
Until Dunleavy appoints a new attorney general, Clyde “Ed” Sniffen, Jr. will lead the Alaska Department of Law as acting attorney general.
ProPublica: Alaska’s Attorney General Resigns Hours After We Published “Uncomfortable” Texts He Sent to a Younger Colleague
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